Nestled on the northwest coast of Sicily, the city of Trapani was once a meeting point for different cultures due to its location on the trading route between Liguria and the East.

To sustain them during their long months at sea, Ligurian ships carried a sauce called agliata, made from basil, walnuts and lots of garlic. It was a sort of pesto ahead of its time – nutritious and tasty, perfect for nourishing sailors away from home.

Garlic acted as both food and medicine, known for its many antiviral properties and ability to regulate blood pressure. A great travel companion, in other words.

What happened to this agliata when it met some of Sicily’s wonderful ingredients? It made friends with almonds and tomatoes and turned red, becoming even more delicious!

And so Pesto alla Trapanese was born – the perfect pairing for a plate of spaghetti or for spreading on a slice of homemade bread to produce mouth-watering bruschetta

I know we aren’t sailors and we can get all our supplies from the supermarket, but you can still prepare a delicious Pesto alla Trapanese by simply combining ready-made pesto and some tomato sauce.

But trust me, making it by hand is incredibly satisfying and well worth the extra effort!


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 50 g blanched almonds
  • 50 g fresh basil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of grated cheese (preferably pecorino)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Electric mixer
  • Sharp knife
  • Large pan for blanching the tomatoes
  • Tea towel or paper towels


Start by blanching the tomatoes: make a cross-shaped incision on the side opposite the stem and immerse them in boiling water for 2 minutes. This quick immersion makes it easy to remove the skin.

After peeling them, remove the stems and gently squeeze the tomatoes to remove the excess water and seeds. You’ll get “tomato fillets”. Let them rest.

Meanwhile, wash the basil, preferably without submerging it in water. Peel the garlic, remove the inner core and cut it into very thin slices.

Purists will tell you to get out your pestle and mortar now. But, honestly, it’s fine to use an electric mixer, as long as you bear one thing in mind: the basil oxidises quickly and can turn a very dark colour. To avoid this, pulse the mixer for a few seconds at a time so the blades don’t overheat it.

Add the ingredients a little at a time in the following order

  • first the almonds
  • then add the tomato fillets
  • mix in the garlic
  • then at the very end, add the basil.

Pulse the mixer each time you add an ingredient to create a homogeneous and granular texture, like with hand-made pesto.

Finish with the grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, adjusting the consistency to your own taste. If it’s too thick, add a little water. The best water to use is the pasta cooking water, which contains some starch. Otherwise, half a cup of tap water will do just fine.

And voila! Your Pesto alla Trapanese is ready to enjoy. WOW!

Buon appetito! 💗